- Internet & the Web
Creating and Maintaining an Electronic Newsletter Archive
Website owners who send out newsletters to subscribers – whether it is a daily, weekly, or monthly newsletter – usually maintain an archive of these newsletters somewhere on their website. Perhaps an archive does not exist yet but is in the future plans for the site. Assembling the archive itself may seem like a daunting task but does not have to be. In fact, so long as web copies of the newsletters are kept on a server somewhere, assembling the archive can be easy, and does not necessarily have to be time consuming. Maintaining an electronic newsletter archive refers to the functionality of the newsletters in the archive they are being kept – which means making sure all images and links in the newsletter appear and work properly. The best way to organize the newsletter archive page of the website is by year, month, and day. It is preferable for the creator of the electronic newsletter archive to have at least some basic HTML skills in order to design the actual layout of how the newsletter links and names will appear in the archive.
Creating the newsletter archive
If the website utilizes a content management system (CMS) such as Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal, a separate page in the CMS can be created that will contain all of the newsletters to date. Name the file something like “Newsletter Archive.” If the website is small and uses only a few HTML files (versus a CMS), create a new HTML file using the same template and layout similar to the rest of the website. Whether the archive is a page in a CMS or a stand-alone HTML file, it can easily be updated each time a newsletter is blasted. Ideally, the layout for the newsletter archive should be in the form of HTML tables, rows and cells.
In this case, three months fit in per table row (for a full year, there is a total of four rows). The image depicts how the archive would look if the newsletter blast was a daily one, five days a week. The newsletter “name” may just be the date as in the case of the above image, or it may contain the subject line if there is enough room, and the blast is weekly or even monthly. The dates that are in blue mean that they are all hyperlinked to their respective newsletters on the server where they are stored. Always start with the most recent year, working down the calendar year from January through December for the archive. Finally, don't forget to place a link to this page somewhere in the menu bar of your website so that it can be located easily.
Maintaining the newsletter archive
The length of time it takes to maintain a full newsletter archive depends upon how big it is and the frequency of the newsletter blasts (how often a newsletter is emailed to subscribers). Keep in mind that a newsletter archive is constantly growing every time a newsletter is added to it, regardless if it is a daily, weekly, or monthly one that is sent to subscribers. When it comes to maintenance, the best way to tackle the present archive is by starting with the most recent year, start in January, and working down to the end of December. Basically the archives maintainer is “moving backwards” without skipping any months or newsletters.
Assuming the web copies of the newsletters are being stored on the same server as the website is, the first step is to download the first newsletter to be worked on. Open the newsletter in a web browser, and check it for any broken links and images. If the newsletters have been moved to a new server recently, it is entirely possible that file names can break. This is particularly true if your newsletters get transferred to a Linux server from a Windows server. What this means is that the file names which were once case-insensitive (Windows) suddenly become case-sensitive (Linux). It is preferable to keep all file names – images, the newsletter names themselves – in lowercase letters. If this is not the case, then all newsletter file names should follow the same naming convention.
In the event that the web copies of the newsletters are stored on an email marketing server such as Critical Impact, MailChimp, or Constant Contact, links that are broken within the newsletter can still be updated without having to worry about uploading it to their server. There should be a post-redirect feature in the email marketing software being used that allows one to update any broken links in past dated newsletters. For example, in Critical Impact, this feature is found under: Reports > Email Tracking > Subject > Advanced Options > Modify Links to update any outdated links in the blast. Each email marketing software system is different so check the documentation on this particular procedure.
How frequently should a newsletter archive be checked for active links and images within each newsletter? Whenever the web copy newsletter files are moved to a new server, if they presently sit on the website's server and not in an email marketing system. Ideally, newsletters should be located on their parent site server, regardless if it is a client-side HTML site, or a Wordpress or Joomla site. Creating and maintaining a newsletter archive on your website will help visitors have easy access to your newsletters and be able to locate the information they are seeking.